COVID-19 on track to die out: JCU professor
A new James Cook University professor says new figures have indicated COVID-19 is on track to die out.
The Peter Doherty Institute-led study has found the reproduction number of the disease was below one, meaning every infected person was infecting less than one other person on average and the virus was on course to die out.
This news comes as Townsville remains free from new COVID-19 cases. It was more than a week ago when the last case was reported and there are only three active cases remaining in the Townsville region.
On Thursday, the Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said if the reproduction rate remained below one, it was estimated the epidemic was in decline.
JCU professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology and Modelling Emma McBryde, who was part of the study, said the analysis produced broadly consistent results that the effective reproduction number was likely less than one in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and West Australia as of April 5.
The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine professor said all three methods used indicate that the COVID-19 epidemic was being suppressed strongly to achieve a reproduction rate below one.
Prof McBryde said the exception was Tasmania, with outbreaks in hospitals in the state's northwest. Professor McBryde said it was expected the reproduction number estimated in Tasmania was greater than one.
"If current measures were sustained indefinitely, and in the absence of imported cases or localised clusters, suppression in Australia is achievable, and down the track, elimination may be achievable too," she said.
She said the researchers also provided estimates of the percentage of people with active COVID-19 symptoms who were being discovered through testing.
"As of April 2020, the estimate of the symptomatic case detection rate for Australia is 93 per cent. The corresponding estimates for each state and territory are all greater than 80 per cent," Prof McBryde said.
She added this was an excellent result, and among the best in the world.
"It means that we can afford to relax the most stringent lockdown measures in the near future, but this process needs to be cautious, measured, incremental and reversible," she said.
Prof McBryde said completely controlling the virus would still take many months and would vary between areas as it was dependent on the initial number of cases in each area.
Originally published as COVID-19 on track to die out: JCU professor